Dead Frog is a misunderstood brewery. Over their seven year existence they have released many different beers, and have received significant PR, but they have never managed to break into BC’s craft beer scene. Whether their inability to establish themselves as recognized beer artisans stems from their historically mediocre product line, or the fact that they produce a variant of much hated citrus forward macro lager, doesn’t matter all that much. Unfortunately for Dead Frog, the craft beer community has never embraced them with open arms. But on the other hand, craft beer fanatics may also feel that Dead Frog has never fully embraced them. But the past doesn’t matter when change is in the works.
I had a chance to sit down with Derrick Smith and Chris Landsman of Dead Frog Brewery this week. We chatted about what Dead Frog has been up to and what they have planned for the future. They were even generous enough to share some of the new brews that they’ve been working on. I gained a new perspective on Langley’s only brewery while chatting with Derrick and Chris. The team at Dead Frog know that craft beer drinkers love to hate light lime lager; they know their beer line up may not have been up to par in the past, and they are fully aware they have very little craft beer street cred these days. But the story doesn’t end there. Dead Frog is making some changes – they care about their beer, a lot, and they are working hard to re-invent themselves.
Here are a few things that many beer drinkers in BC may not know about Dead Frog:
- They have a lot of new beers in the works, and some of their more recent seasonal releases have shown dramatic improvement.
- Dead Frog has a rock star Brewmaster, literally (former drummer for Deja Voodoo), with an impressive pedigree including stints at Quebec’s famed Dieu du Çiel and Vancouver’s much loved Dix. Brewmaster Tony Dewald has been given carte blanche to create beer that he loves, and beer drinkers can expect a noticeable product improvement in the near future. An Imperial Stout, a Northwest Style Red Ale and possibly a Vienna lager will be hitting the market soon. I expect their riff on an imperial stout will be well received by many beer lovers – it is a well brewed beer.
- They want to build a better relationship with the Vancouver craft beer community. Derrick and Chris know that this will take patience and hard work, but they seem to be embracing the challenge.
- Dead Frog is going to ditch their clear bottles, opting for the much preferred brown bottle.
Their appearance on CBC’s The Big Decision certainly caused concern about the viability of their business, and the fact that they began contract brewing for Steamworks didn’t help ease this concern. But having chatted with ownership and management, it appears that their business is doing just fine. Keep in mind that reality TV is not objective. It is entertainment driven and sometimes the truth just isn’t exciting enough.
Dead Frog still has a long way to go. But having tasted some of their upcoming releases, which were noticeably better than previous offerings, and seeing their drive to improve first hand, I think they have a real chance at turning things around. So far they are doing the right things and I wish them great success.
Looks tasty, goes well with lemon ale
This blog has a history with Russell Brewing. We had a bad experience, which they corrected admirably. I really liked the people I met there and I really want them to succeed. I also really like their Brewmaster Series, which includes their Black Death Porter, IP’eh!, Blood Alley Bitter, and Angry Scotch Ale. They were involved with the tasty VCBW collaboration ale and they do other solid seasonals as well.
Recently they did something incredibly rad. They held a home-brewing competition last year and then this year they commercially released and distributed the winning beer. That’s right, Rick August Russian Imperial Stout is available in and around the lower mainland. It’s an 11% beer and I’ve heard it’s packed with flavour. Quote from the Russell press release: “The recipe uses more than 10 types of malts, two types of hops, a special yeast strain, juniper berries and licorice root”. Sounds interesting, no? I haven’t tried one yet, but I’ve heard good things. I’m going to pick up two tomorrow, drink one and cellar the other. I mean really, what they did here is incredible: they made the home-brewing dream come true for a guy.
Russell has this really awesome side to it, but then this crazy awesome beer/story isn’t mentioned on their website besides in a stuffy press release. They continue to pump out extremely mediocre beer from their regular lineup, both in cans and on draught. I despise their lemon ale and lime lager with the very fabric of my being. And what’s up with Rocky Mountain pilsner? I just don’t get how they can be so polar. I’ve heard a couple rumours lately, one that they have two brewmasters (one who does the good stuff and one who doesn’t) and that they are nearing the brink financially. Whatever happens, I hope they keep pumping out the good stuff.
I have been absent for quite some time now. Don’t worry, my passion for fine beer and delicious food has not subsided – if anything it has increased. I was out shopping for supplies in preparation for tonight’s hockey game and while picking up a 12 case of Central City’s summer pack I caught sight of a heartbreaking slew of product’s that left my soul devastated. Light Lime Lager is everywhere! No longer is this craze limited to the macro brewing giants, small craft brewers have jumped in head first without hesitation and fear of drowning in the deep end of the macro brewers pool of mass market “beer”. Dead Frog, Big Rock and The Northam Group are all promoting their own fizzy lime swill marketed at lager and I am afraid this is the beginning of the end.
It is true, Bud Light Lime is a massive hit, and why not, people love 7up – market 7up as beer and, what do you know, its a hit. It doesn’t disappoint me to see new products on liquor store shelves that macro brewers market as beer, when really they resemble juice more than beer, I don’t expect much from giant corporations. However, I hold craft brewer’s to a much higher standard and I am disappointed in their current behaviour.
To all you craft brewers offering a lime “beer”, please stop, its not a good thing that you are doing. If your marketing team is pushing you to offer this product, please inform them that following trends, not fads, is the best practice.
On a more positive note, I am making Salt Spring Island mussels, fries, and wings tonight – accompanied by an oude guezze . All will be enjoyed in the company of good friends while cheering the Canucks on to victory.